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Numbness or Tingling

Why Do I Have Numbness?



Why do I have numbness? Numbness or tingling also called ‘paraesthesia’ has literally hundreds of causes and can affect anybody. Have you ever sat in a hard chair or kept your legs crossed for too long and felt a numbness or tingling in your buttocks, leg or foot? That is paraesthesia!

In many cases, such as described above, paraesthesia is short-lived and can be resolved by standing up or uncrossing your legs.

But in some cases, it doesn’t go away. Or if it does, it comes back regularly. This can be a sign that there is an underlying cause.

Causes of Numbness

Numbness, Tingling also known as Paraesthesia is caused by pressure on a nerve. More specifically, sensory nerves which are responsible for sending messages from the brain related to pain and touch.

If you have parasthesia you may have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid or too high blood glucose; even certain vitamin deficiencies can cause paraesthesia. The good news however is that numbness alone isn’t usually associated with potentially life-threatening disorders but parasthesia that persists should never be ignored.

The most common cause of paraesthesia originates in the spine (1). Every single message from the brain travels down the spinal cord and exits the spine in between the spinal bones. Our modern lifestyles tend to be unkind to our spines, so pressure on the nerves can build up.

Many nerves in the low-back travel down the leg and foot, and many nerves in the neck and middle back travel down the arms and hands. Pressure in these areas of the spine can therefore cause numbness or tingling where these nerves go.

Many people experiencing numbness or tingling have spines that look similar to the one shown below. This is a side-view of the low back. This person has been experiencing numbness in the right leg for several weeks.

low back xray - numbness

What Should I Do to Relieve my Numbness or Tingling?

A healthcare professional who specializes in the spine, such as a Chiropractor will be able to determine the best course of action for you. They will start with an initial consultation, and if necessary take x-rays so they can see what is going on more clearly. Once the assessment is complete, they will bring you back to explain your findings and recommend the best care plan. Your chiropractor may refer you to the more appropriate health professional if chiropractic isn’t what’s best for you.

Chiropractic for Numbness or Tingling

Chiropractic Adjustments are very successful in providing both short and long term relief (2). Adjustments aim to increase the mobility of the joints, which takes the pressure off the nerves, allowing the normal sensation to be restored. With parasthesia, this is a very effective way to target the issue because the nerve is being directly affected. When the affected nerves no longer have abnormal pressure, the symptoms are relieved. The muscles around that area are also able to relax, reducing any accompanying muscle pain or spasm. For the majority of people, results are felt very quickly, however, if you have had pain for some time, and/or your spine has poor mobility, it may take longer. One study of 162 people with parasthesia due to spinal dysfunction found that 85% of people were able to find relief from nerve pain, numbness, and tingling with just nine visits to a chiropractor (3).

What Can I Do to Prevent Numbness?

If you have a manual job which involves repetitive lifting, bending and twisting of your spine or you sit in an office for prolonged periods you are putting constant stress on your spine. Our spines are very adaptable and can cope with stress very well for so long. Stress however builds up and can become too much. This is when joints become stiff, inflamed and painful resulting in a loss of movement, poor posture and nerve pressure causing paraesthesia.

It is recommended to keep an active lifestyle, take breaks between sitting down, and have regular adjustments by your Chiropractor to maintain the mobility of your spine and prevent nerves from becoming compromised. If you have any problems between adjustments, come in and get checked, just like you would a tooth problem between dental appointments.


  1. Nikolai Bogduk ;On the definition and physiology of back pain, referred pain, and radicular pain; University of Newcastle; 2009; 17-19:206 LOE: 5
  2. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Chiropractoc treatment of cervical radiculopathy caused by a herniated disc. 01 Feb 1994, 17(2):119-123
    PMID: 8169540
  3. Kim Christiensen and Kirsten Buswell, Chiropractic outcomes managing radiculopathy in a hospital setting: a retrospective review of 162 patients. Elsevier, 2008, 7(3) 115-125

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